What Are The Rules For Packed Lunch, Lunch Boxes & Lunch Bags For Back to School Autumn 2020?

Updated May 2021:

The following the relaxation of public restrictions, you may expect the guidance in schools to change but this is not appreciably changed since last autumn, except the slight loosening of rules regarding face coverings. We would advise that same as we wrote at that time below

When the kids go back to school for the Autumn 2020 term, Covid-19 restrictions may affect what they are allowed to bring to school. As with all things related to coronavirus policy, it is confusing and good information is scarce.

The UK government have stated in the guidance for schools that:

It is still recommended that pupils limit the amount of equipment they bring into school each day, to essentials such as lunch boxes, hats, coats, books, stationery and mobile phones. Bags are allowed. Pupils and teachers can take books and other shared resources home, although unnecessary sharing should be avoided, especially where this does not contribute to pupil education and development. Similar rules on hand cleaning, cleaning of the resources and rotation should apply to these resources.

What does this mean for your packed lunch?

There is very little explicit guidance here but it can be interpreted that all these items should be easy to clean. The rules on cleaning of the resources vary according to how frequently they are used, lunchboxes are not called out separately but for other items the guidance is as follows:

  • With frequently used items such as pens, each child should just use their own.
  • For shared resources, the school will need to frequently clean them.

The government guidelines do not dictate what type of lunch box or bag etc should be used.

Reading between the lines, it would be sensible to wash your lunchbox and bottle well in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher every day. This would be good practise whether we are in a pandemic or not! 

For lunch bags that you might use to carry a lunchbox and bottle, it would be good to clean this daily. If you are using a cotton bag (like the Mintie bag) they can be put in the washing machine. If you need a spare bag, these can be bought seperately in our store.

For pencil cases, the government does not state any specific rules, if however you would like to keep your pencil case clean, a stainless steel lunchbox doubles up as a great place to store your pens and pencils! 

Local Variation

At the council level, some areas have issued their own guidance for the schools in their area. This largely reflects the central government guidance but as the ones closer to the schools implementing it, some have issued slightly more specific guidance. In some case, disposable food packaging is encouraged, in others, canvas lunch bags are discouraged etc. It is worth searching your local council website for a coronavirus back to school page.

Finally, your specific school may offer some variation from the council's advice so please check with them if you have any concerns.